Best Practices of Assessment at NC State University

Updated December, 2006.

Purpose of Assessment

The purpose of assessment is to systematically improve the quality of teaching, learning, research, service, extension, and engagement at NC State. Assessment informs planning and decision-making and provides a gauge for the quality of all units.

The following Statements Of Best Practices are intended to provide direction, focus, and vision for assessment at NC State University.  As such, these statements are descriptive, not prescriptive.  They are indicators of good assessment, not university policy.  The Assessment Work Group developed these best practices to put into concrete terms the ideals expressed by a set of principles the group generated as a guide to assessment on this campus.  The best practices are organized according to those Guiding Principles:

  • Culture: Assessment works best when guided by the curiosity and intellectual dialogue that characterize the culture of higher education.
  • ProcessNC State is committed to assessment that is meaningful, manageable, efficient, and useful for making decisions at the department or unit level as well as at the college and university levels. After decisions have been made and implemented, then assessment continues to determine how well the changes are working.
  • Involvement: Effective assessment is: a) owned by all faculty, staff, and administrators who contribute to the quality of programs and services; b) valued, recognized, and rewarded; and c) supported and sustained by campus leaders and resources at the college, division, and university levels.
  • Evidence: Assessment evidence is relevant to the objectives/outcomes of programs and services and to the needs of the owners. Evidence is collected through a variety of methods and from multiple sources.
  • Use of Results: Assessment results substantially contribute to: a) enhancing the quality of programs and services, and ongoing assessment processes; b) highlighting excellence; c) making evidence-based decisions; and d) informing planning and resource management. Though assessment can be useful for external reporting, its primary purpose is as a systematic method for making improvements and decisions.
 

Statements of Best Practices

Culture

  • Assessment activities result in increased campus dialog about how to improve student learning, programs, and services.
  • Departments and administrators value assessment activities (e.g., serving on  assessment committees, collecting and interpreting assessment evidence, presenting and publishing assessment results and best practices) when considering promotion, tenure, and performance review of faculty and staff.
  • Assessment is recognized as an essential and critical component in achieving the university’s mission.

 

 Process 

  • Assessment guides those responsible for the quality of teaching, learning, research, service, extension and engagement in systematically answering the following questions:
    • What are we trying to do?
    • How well are we doing it?
    • How do we know?
    • How do we use the information to improve?
    • Do the improvements work?
  • The assessment process is meaningful, manageable, efficient, and useful for making decisions at the department or unit level as well as at the college and university levels.  Though assessment can be useful for external reporting, its primary purpose is as a tool for systematically making enhancements and decisions.
  • All programs/units are meaningfully engaged with their assessment processes on a continuous and ongoing basis, and assessment processes are integrated into ongoing activities at all levels.
  • Each academic and other program that impacts student learning establishes measurable and observable learning outcomes. Other units develop measurable objectives and outcomes that are meaningful to them.
  • Assessment is conducted in a manner that is sensitive to diversity and that considers views from a broad spectrum of demographic and philosophical perspectives.
  • Each program/unit gathers and analyzes appropriate evidence to inform decision-making.  To assist with decision-making, faculty and staff may develop pre-established performance criteria and indicators of performance against which to judge the evidence.
  • Each program/unit has a written well-documented assessment plan that includes measurable objectives/outcomes. Documentation may also be established by the unit’s reporting mechanism (e.g., Undergraduate Program Review, Graduate Program’s biennial reports, Student Affairs’ annual reporting process, etc.).  A complete assessment plan includes the following information about each objective/outcome:
    • source of evidence,
    • frequency of evidence collection, and
    • timetables for analyses and reporting.

Involvement 

  • Assessment is coordinated across the university by assessment professionals. To encourage efficiency and consistency and to facilitate decision-making, every program/unit has an assigned assessment professional who can:
    • provide guidance in the assessment process,
    • identify common outcomes and assessment measures across programs and units, and
    • share informa­tion about appropriate assessment tools and activi­ties.
  • Assessment is owned and driven by those primarily responsible for the quality of the program/unit. These individuals determine outcomes and objectives, choose assessment strategies, evaluate results, and make decisions.
  • Assessment is a collaborative activity among those responsible for program quality and others in the educational community who have an interest in program improvement.  Students/customers/clients are valued and active participants in the process. Each program/unit decides when it is appropriate to collaborate with others.
  • The faculty/staff responsible for the quality of the programs/units have opportunities for professional development that focus on assessment theories and practices.
  • University, college, and department administrators provide leadership, direction, and support (including resources) for assessment.

 

Evidence 

  • In order for assessment to be meaningful and manageable, the best assessment evidence illuminates issues surrounding objectives/outcomes, including the quality of teaching, learning, research, service, extension, and engagement.  The best assessment evidence is meaningful and relevant.
  • Evidence can be gathered using a variety of methods, including proxy measures, and can be based on quantitative, quasi-experimental, or qualitative designs.
  • The assessment of student learning consists of direct evidence (i.e., judgments about student work or performance that is related to their learning experience) and may include indirect evidence (i.e., statements or opinions about students’ abilities or learning experiences).
  • In addition to outcomes measures, other supporting evidence might include inputs (e.g., curriculum, faculty qualifications, GRE scores), process measures (e.g., number and kinds of programs, technology, laboratories), and outputs (e.g., number of degrees awarded, graduation rates, time to degree).
  • Using existing data and knowing what others are gathering contribute to the building and maintaining of datasets, bodies of evidence, portfolios, etc., that ensure continuous, systematic, and efficient decision-making. Each program’s/unit’s assessment process evolves and develops based on what is learned from prior assessments.
  • Comparison of assessment results with peers and other institutions known for excellence can yield valuable and useful information for NC State University.
  • Those responsible for program quality balance the value of the assessment evidence with the effort or resources involved in gathering the evidence.  They plan for the systematic collection and analyses of evidence and identify the resources needed for collection and analyses.

 

Use of Results 

  • Assessment results substantially contribute to a) enhancing the quality of programs and services; b) highlighting excellence; c) making evidence-based decisions; and d) supporting informed planning and resource management.
  • Assessment results are synthesized and used with integrity.
  • The process of interpreting and using assessment results demonstrates faculty/staff engagement with the process, involves as many members of the program/unit as practicable, and utilizes their experiences and professional judgment.
  • The synthesis of multiple evidence sources with the results of assessment informs decisions, plans, and policies about teaching, learning, research, service, extension, engagement, and ongoing assessment strategies.
  • Assessment results and decisions based on those results are reported periodically in writing.  These reports are determined by the program/unit’s reporting mechanism. A complete assessment report includes the following information:
    • The objective(s) and outcome(s) assessed during the reporting period.
    • A brief description of the assessment methodology for each outcome.
    • A summary of results and key findings.
    • Implications of key findings and conclusions.
    • A description of any changes that have been established or are under consideration based on what was learned.

Because assessment is an ongoing process, further assessment results will be collected and interpreted to determine the effectiveness of any changes that have been made based on past assessments.  This feedback loop continues to provide evidence that can be used for improving and maintaining quality.